How a Washing Line Became a Wishing Line for Residents of Care Home

Wishes granted for seniors in Australia and beyond.

When staff at the Nanyima Aged Care Home in Queensland, Australia, decided to broaden their residents’ lives amid Covid-19 lockdowns, they turned their facility’s washing line into a “wishing line.” Residents wrote their longings on a piece of paper and hung them up with clothes pegs so that staff could try and make their wishes come true.

The desires expressed by the residents were generally uncomplicated and involved experiences they thought they would never have again, such as riding a horse, dining out at a restaurant, or visiting the beach, explains ABC News. "They weren't overly big wishes," added Tanya Tooma, a diversional therapist at the home who originated the idea.

Surf’s Up
Colleen and Ken Walker, residents of Nanyima who had been together for more than 65 years, according to ABC News, used to spend their weekends at the beach. While Colleen has dementia, Ken was no longer able to walk on his own. Despite this, the couple had a sentimental desire to visit a local surf club and enjoy fish and chips, just like they did in their younger years.

Thanks to the assistance of volunteer lifeguards who provided wheelchair access, shade, and buggy rides for the residents, the couple's wish was granted. Even though the trip to the beach was different from what they remembered, their youthful excitement was rekindled, and for some residents it was the first visit to the beach in years.

By the end of the day, the experience had moved some of the residents to tears. "It's an absolute joy to come to work and see the smiles on their faces," Tooma told ABC News.

The impact of wishing
The inspiration to provide a last wish to those individuals approaching their final days is intimately tied to the Make-A-Wish foundation. It can be traced back to Christopher James Greicius, a spirited 7-year-old who was fighting leukemia and had a wish to become a police officer. In 1980, the Phoenix community rallied together to make Chris's wish a reality.

Since then, Make-A-Wish has fulfilled the wishes of hundreds of thousands of children who are battling critical illnesses. These wishes provide hope to families during challenging times, strength to persevere, and experiences that will stay with them forever, making a profound difference in their lives.

So too, the initiative to work with seniors to fulfill their last wishes is very much alive with foundations such as Wish of a Lifetime, Twilight Wish, the Bucket List Foundation, and Seniors Have Dreams, Too.

“I realized there was no mechanism in our country to make wishes come true for seniors, to make them feel thanked and remembered,” Twilight Wish founder Cass Forkin explained. “[W]e needed a type of sunshine fund for them…I began the process to found what would become the first national organization to grant wishes to seniors in [the US]. Now, seniors in nursing homes and living on their own would have a way to be honored and thanked and remembered for their contributions as the younger generations made their wishes come true and they would know we care.”

Forkin was awarded the 2018 Humanitarian of the Year Award from The Chapel of Four Chaplains in Philadelphia and is the recipient of many academic, political, business, and community awards.

Flying with Amelia Earhart
With the help of Wish of a Lifetime, 101-year-old Anne Fiyalka finally fulfilled the dream of reenacting an airplane excursion with Amelia Earhart, according to AARP.

When Fiyalka was a high school student in Connecticut, in 1936, Amelia Earhart came to the school to talk, an event that would change Fiyalka’s life. Not only did Fiyalka recall Earhart’s words to her high school assembly, which were a direct challenge to the norms of the time—that it was a woman's world as well as a man's—but as one of three female honor students, Fiyalka was chosen to take a flight with Earhart from a local airport just months before her disappearance.

In June of 2022, Fiyalka boarded a turboprop plane in Stratford, Connecticut, and flew once again, covering some of the same territory she saw on the Earhart flight. "I can't tell you how much I enjoyed the recent flight," Fiyalka told AARP.

"I just thought it was more than deserved, and I knew how much it would please her," added longtime friend Cheryl Constand of Fiyalka's wish. “She's 101 and has such a unique personality. Young and old love her and like to be with her."

Rosie the Riveter, take two
Mae Krier, a WWII original Rosie the Riveter, had her wish granted by Twilight Wish in 2015 when the foundation helped her travel to the American Rosie the Riveter Association's convention held in California.

At 17, Krier got a job working on B-17s and B-29s for Boeing in Seattle, after graduating from high school in North Dakota. Krier's proudest memory was helping build the 5 Grand, the 5,000th B-17 made by Boeing after Pearl Harbor. Krier met her husband, Norm, a Navy man, while dancing at the Service Man's Center in Seattle. They married just before the war ended and were married for 69 years until Norm's passing in 2014.

The reunion, held in California, was a three-day event where Krier exchanged war stories with fellow Rosies.

Traveling the globe
When Tom Burgett was in the advanced stages of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, he had a desire to see the world despite being confined to his wheelchair and oxygen tank due to his condition, reported USA Today.

In August 2012, Burgett contacted the Wish of a Lifetime Foundation, expressing his wish to receive postcards from different parts of the world. The foundation then appealed to the public through Twitter and Facebook, asking for their help in fulfilling Burgett's dream.

One month later, Burgett had received over 1,400 postcards from more than 65 different destinations, including places as far away as Istanbul and China. According to Jeremy Bloom, the founder of Wish of a Lifetime, the response was overwhelming.

"We are talking about a generation that has been through so much," Bloom told USA Today. "They have encountered so much of this nation's history, from the boats of Pearl Harbor to the Great Depression to Vietnam and so much more. I just wanted to find a way to show that we appreciate them."

One wish at a time
What these foundations and care facilities have in common is their goal of improving the quality of life for seniors, one wish at a time. When a wish is granted, often with the assistance of volunteers, it acknowledges the lifetime achievements of seniors and reminds them that they are still important to society. The wishes can fulfill a wide range of desires, including publishing a book, reuniting with long-lost family members, or returning to the classroom to share their knowledge. Each wish that is granted helps promote a culture that values and respects the aging population.

“There is so much to the miracles and the stories,” added Forkin. “It has been an amazing journey. I filed the paperwork on July 1, 2003, to start the foundation. One year later, we had granted over 100 wishes.” Since its founding, Twilight Wish has granted 4,912 wishes.

Four-Legged Volunteers Help Ease Loneliness in Seniors
This new Technology Helps the Elderly Feel Young Again
The Cuddle Club Unites Senior People and Senior Dogs